Kaiser Chiefs, The Promenade, Blackpool

The Promenade, Blackpool

Pop music has seemed peculiarly drawn to the seaside ever since the days when Cliff Richard sang Summer Holiday, and mods and rockers tore lumps out of each other battling for supremacy on Brighton beach to the soundtrack of the Who. However, in modern times Blackpool seems to be the place to go for any bands wanting to throw a seaside special. Grown men still become misty-eyed at talk of the Stone Roses' 1989 jaunt at the Empress Ballroom, while Las Vegan players the Killers chose the same venue last year to unveil their second album and comedy moustaches.

Northern boys Kaiser Chiefs are giving their seaside trip a twist. The venue is so secret that as late as 20 minutes before the band are due onstage many are unsure where exactly that stage is.

The hottest rumour - that they're playing on the beach - is rather scuppered by an arriving tide.

It's left to the band's mobile phone company sponsors to direct punters to a hastily-assembled metal structure on the promenade, which can luckily be accessed without tiptoeing anywhere near the sea.

However, even here a sense of mild chaos reigns as an announcer tries to coax people in from adjoining streets with free entry, stopping short of actually urging: "Roll up, roll up."

At noon, Kaisers singer Ricky Wilson checks his watch, asks: "Are you gonna sing along?", and banishes any lingering suspicion that everybody has been fiendishly lured here to see the Grumbleweeds revival.

Two precarious speaker stacks, swaying in the breeze a stone's throw from the Irish sea, seem to function more efficiently than anything at this summer's festivals. The visuals are a bit special too, particularly Blackpool Tower, which lies behind the stage and looks as if it's rising from within the drum kit.

The venue is unusual but seems to appeal to the band's lurking sense of the absurd. It's certainly odd seeing children hoisted onto their parents shoulders for High Royds, a song which depicts the gloomy England of the band's youth, and which is named after a defunct Leeds mental institution.

A growing sense of the surreal increases when drummer Nick Hodgson dedicates Everything Is Average Nowadays to the Bus Driver of the Year 2007, and the song's sharp, fast hooks attract flocks of curious seagulls.

Perhaps with a distant eye on an end of the pier show in his dotage, Ricky Wilson seems to grow into the role of impresario. Sporting an unusual combination of facial hair and make-up, the singer illustrates the "Is there anybody left in here that doesn't want to be out there?" line in I Predict A Riot by pointing seaward, and bounces beach balls into the crowd in Oh My God.

While he can coax the audience to sing just about anything, a departing quip of: "Anyone fancy a swim in the sea later?" unsurprisingly finds few takers.


Dave Simpson

The GuardianTramp

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